Sleepless City: A Nick Ryan Novel

Image of Sleepless City: A Nick Ryan Novel
Release Date: 
July 11, 2023
Blackstone Publishing
Reviewed by: 

Coleman knows New York City. He knows suspense. He knows the power of a juicy twist. And his stories have a deep, character-driven undertow.”

He’s a cop, but he doesn’t look like one. He’s ex-military. He’s fearless. He’s a chameleon. He can plan like an architect, but he can also improvise on the spot.

Nick Ryan also knows all the problems with being seen as a rogue cop. He watched another renegade cop, his friend, screw up. When Ryan corners a man who has twice escaped prosecution for the torture and rape of five eight-year-old boys, Ryan realizes that executing him isn’t what he wants. “Nick understood that vengeance was inherently disappointing. Death couldn’t undo things. It didn’t blot out an evil man’s existence.”

Ryan gets the evil man, Ricky Corliss, to confess to his crimes. He thinks sending the confession to the newspaper will clear the name of his former friend, but Nick isn’t opposed to taking justice fully into his own hands, too.

But the scene gets interrupted by a man holding a nine-millimeter gun that’s “as common as cheap vodka in Eastern Europe.” Everything shifts. Nick Ryan is in charge one minute, at another’s mercy the next. “Where there had been answers, there were now only questions.”

Soon Nick Ryan is the one who is trapped. And he knows he’s been watched. In fact, he’s been watched for a long, long time. Nick’s captor is a guy named Joe, who knows that Nick’s personal take on the laws and rules extend back to his days in Afghanistan. Serving in the military, Nick wasn’t afraid to take matters, in violent fashion, into his own hands.

Joe makes Nick an offer that will take full advantage of his “rare combination of talents.” Nick will remain a cop, but he will join the Intelligence Bureau “with a full-privileges backstage pass.”

Nick’s job? To clean up messes that can’t be resolved in any other way. “There are things in this city that need doing that can’t be done out in the open,” explains Joe. “It was true yesterday. It’s true today, and it’ll be true tomorrow. The messes will be ours. The solutions will be yours. You do whatever it takes to make things right.”

But there’s one condition that Joe lays out. Nick Ryan must take orders. “No more freelancing.”

If we know anything about the long history of rogues of any kind, of course, we know that particular request is not going to be followed for long. You can’t stifle suspicion. Or cynicism. Or a guy like Nick Ryan who has an eye out for dirty cops.

It’s a nifty set-up. And we’re in the hands of Reed Farrel Coleman, with more than 30 works of crime fiction under his belt. Coleman knows New York City. He knows suspense. He knows the power of a juicy twist. And his stories have a deep, character-driven undertow. Coleman gives Ryan a troubled brother, a tender girlfriend, and several nasty antagonists in Sleepless City who will put Ryan through his paces.

The plot revolves around characters who could have walked off the pages of the morning newspaper. Nick, ever wary of what he’s being told and why, goes to great undercover lengths to get face-to-face with the people he needs to quiz. The threads Nick follows are tangled up with major themes rumbling at the heart of today’s hair-trigger culture—the nature and justification for police brutality, government corruption, racial politics, immigration, and the power behind a broadcaster’s microphone when you treat the truth like your own private plaything.

It’s all done in Coleman’s organic story style. Coleman puts the reader in Nick’s rogue shoes and we never get the feeling that Nick is doing something simply because the plot requires it. Sleepless City underscores how lies and conspiracy theories hurt those who need the truth the most.

Rogue waves and rogue elephants are considered dangerous and, of course, destructive. Nick Ryan is a rogue, too, but he’s always got on eye out for doing what’s right for the downtrodden and underprivileged. There’s plenty of violence here but Coleman throws in a dollop of heart, too.

Sleepless City is certainly the launch of another gritty series character for Coleman, who clearly sees a never-ending battle for power and control of that ever-precious narrative.